Pigeons and vixens, curse of the green whisperer

Editorin Tennis

Eddie "the green whisperer" Seaward has two arch-enemies, the vixen and the eddie_seaward.jpgpigeon.

For 23 years, he has lovingly nurtured the hallowed turf of Wimbledon as chief groundsman and after the Olympics, he is off to look after his own lawn.

Sitting on Centre Court, surveying his empire, gazing anxiously at the scudding clouds above, Seaward revels in the lush green scene laid out before him. Little wonder that Novak Djokovic could not resist eating a few tufts of the lovingly nurtured grass after winning the title last year.

It must rank as one of the most stressful behind-the-scenes jobs in sport, dealing with the vagaries of the British weather and bringing the courts to a pitch of perfection that will withstand two weeks of hammering by toe-dragging athletes.

Seaward has had to keep a wary eye on the animal kingdom.

"The vixens are not good for the grass. If the bitches get on the grass and urinate, the urine can kill the grass and the soil at the same time," he told Reuters, recalling with a shudder the time in the 1990s that they dared to relieve themselves overnight just beneath the Royal Box on Centre Court.

"Oh yes, they did some damage," he said.

Come the winter, the foxes take control once more.

"They come and sun-bathe on the roof and they seem to be thinking 'What the hell are you doing here. This is mine.' They love sun-bathing at weekends."

Nowadays Seaward's job is made much easier as guard dogs patrol the site during the tournament and electric fences have been laid around the show courts.

"They give them a slight shock and send them on their merry way," said Seaward.


He is also given a helping hand by Rufus, a Harrier hawk brought in three times a week to fly over the courts and warn off the pigeons who used to be a great pest to players shaken out of their deep concentration by fluttering visitors overhead.

"If you roll pigeon droppings into the court, they release a certain amount of ammonia. A court can look as if it has got the measles," Seaward said.

The director of the film "Wimbledon", starring Kirsten Dunst, wanted pigeons in the movie but he soon changed his mind when asking how the groundsmen got rid of the droppings.

"We hand-pick them," said Seaward. "That stopped him straight away."

Interviewing the phlegmatic 68-year-old on Centre Court can be an unnerving experience as he never stops looking upwards but asking him about his favourite Wimbledon clashes is a waste of time.

"I have not watched a match right the way through since I came here," he said. "I have never watched the end of a final."

Seaward is more than happy to wave goodbye to the high pressure demands on the man dubbed "the green whisperer" but he will certainly be awash with nostalgia when he waves goodbye to his beloved Centre Court.

"The magic has been the joy of working with grass." he said.

Article sourced from Yahoo News

Article Tags: